Last week employees and users of The Open Door’s 24/7 Integrated Response Hub located in the Wetaskiwin Civic Building were surprised by a show of support by the community. Community members showed up with signs of positivity and kind words to offer support following adversity that has surrounded the Hub for months.
Since its creation in the City the 24/7 Integrated Response Hub has been faced with multiple obstacles including backlash from local business owners and Wetaskiwin residents who are unhappy with a shelter in their vicinity.
Due to this the City of Wetaskiwin was unable to secure the location chosen by The Open Door to be the permanent home for the 24/7 Integrated Response Hub. This fall Wetaskiwin City Council declared a state of local emergency to provide immediate assistance to vulnerable persons in the area and declared that this winter the Hub would be located in the Wetaskiwin Civic Building.
“If we can have an agency in Wetaskiwin that gives people a warm place to sleep, some food and even just a little bit of hope, it’s something I have to support. It can also start the healing for those who have been struggling for most, if not all of their life,” said Wetaskiwin Mayor Tyler Gandam on the Facebook page Mayor Tyler Gandam in a Jan. 9, 2021 post.
“We are going to have issues. The trouble is, we’re going to have issues whether there’s a Hub or not. It’s not going to run smoothly, I don’t want it at the Civic Building any longer than it has to be. Just know I hear your concerns and we are working on getting it moved as soon as we can.”
His post comes in response to one on the page by Jessica Hutton, Executive Director of The Open Door Association. In her post on Hutton explains that the Civic building was never one of The Open Door’s choices for the 24/7 Integrated Response Hub location and that many factors played into the use of the Civic Building this year. One of the reasons was zoning issues and land use bylaws that could work for programming like the Hub’s.
Hutton went on to say she knows that the location is not ideal but The Open Door is tackling a decades long issue and things take time. She asked for the kindness and understanding of the community as they work to find the proper home for the Hub.
In a plea for compassion she said, “we greatly appreciate the City’s dedication in working on a solution, and part of that has been to temporarily use the Civic building. Again, not ideal, but keeping people safe, and beginning the long journey of change that will come.
Please know that tonight, my team is dealing with someone who just had a miscarriage. Someone whose mother just died. Multiple people who have just lost a common family member/ friend. Someone who is dying of cancer and uses drugs to cope with the fear. Someone who just had a limb amputated. Someone who was sexually assaulted as a child and drinks to dull the memories. Someone who has a disability that the system should have caught and helped years ago. They are drinking to cope. And this is just some of what we’re doing. Tonight. Now.”
Compassionate community members heard Hutton and Gandam’s messages and decided to show their support for the 24/7 Integrated Response Hub last week by making positive signs to post in front of the Hub and sharing messages of support with those there that day.
“The whole goal was a show of support,” said Wetaskiwin resident Maleah Friesen, on why she and others decided to do this for the Hub. “We really wanted to drown out the negativity they’ve been receiving with positivity.”
Friesen said that employees and users of the Hub were so happy to see the show of positivity and how they were being welcomed in the community. She says that the Hub is something that this community was in need of, “this is what reconciliation in action looks like.”
In her January 7 post Hutton lists some options of what Wetaskiwin residents can do if they are frustrated with the way things are right now with the Hub. She said:
“1. Find us a better location, within the City of Wetaskiwin (necessary for funding sources), zoned correctly, that can accommodate 100 plus people, with about 40 overnight, every night. Bear in mind funding is an issue.
2. Work with The Open Door to provide cohesive and targeted community support for Provincial and Federal funding as The Open Door and the City of Wetaskiwin work relentlessly to get the necessary programming/ resources in place.
3. Further dialogue within the community about what it is to be human, and face fears and concerns with those who may appear different or scary. Learn names. Learn stories. Mutual respect, compassion and kindness are necessary cornerstones. Hunger, loneliness, pain, mental illness and multiple other factors can drive someone’s behaviour. See the real person underneath.
4. Take time to understand mental health, addictions, grief, trauma, complex medical needs, etc., and how they all factor into a humans existence. Connection is the opposite of addiction. Hurt people hurt people. Knowledge is power.”